Commentary: We sure believe some weird stuff about China's Belt and Road Initiative

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Those who accuse China of using the BRI to further its own geopolitical objectives are off the mark about what is really going on, says this observer.

The first misconception is that the BRI is motivated by geopolitical objectives. Despite some posturing, the BRI is an attempt to address China’s own economic challenges.

The first rail line linking China to Laos is a key part of the 'Belt and Road' project. Beijing has played down fears the virus will slow down work on Chinese-backed investments in Asia. Top leaders and central agencies attempt to shape the BRI’s overall direction through often vague policy statements and broad commitments to particular countries or regions.Detailed implementation is left to other agencies that often operate with considerable latitude. The most important of these are the hundreds of state-owned enterprises that implement BRI projects.

They also compete ferociously for projects and engage in behaviours that have caused blowback for Chinese diplomacy. This loose system and SOEs’ global market inexperience have facilitated many poorly conceived overseas projects.The third misconception is that China dictates the BRI to recipients. Much commentary on the BRI either ignores the recipients’ agency or treats them as dupes.

 

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